If you are detained and in ICE custody

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can detain people in a jail or detention center when ICE is in the process of removing (deporting) them from the United States. Federal law allows ICE to detain certain immigrants who:

  • Are in the United States without a legal status, or
  • Are in the United States legally, but who have certain criminal convictions or other issues of deportability. See the CAIR Coalition website for a more complete list.

You should try to find an immigration lawyer who can help you.

When does ICE detain you?

Common situations when ICE can detain you include:

You are legally re-entering the United States

Whenever you return to the United States, you are subject to immigration inspection. ICE can stop and detain you if you have criminal convictions or other admissibility issues. ICE has access to your criminal records. Consult with an experienced immigration lawyer if you have any criminal convictions before you plan to travel outside of the United States.

You have interactions with the criminal justice system

When you are arrested or charged with a crime, your fingerprints are sent to various databases, including immigration databases. If you are in criminal custody, have criminal convictions or have been charged with a crime, ICE may find out and place you in immigration detention.

You are entering the United States unlawfully 

If you enter the United States unlawfully, ICE can detain you at or near the border (within 100 miles) and place you in immigration detention.

You have prior removal orders (orders of deportation)

If you have prior removal orders or orders of deportation, ICE may arrest you based on these prior orders. This can happen anywhere and does not need to be at the border.

Applications to Immigration 

When you apply for an immigration benefit or status, you are fingerprinted as part of the process. ICE can discover criminal convictions that make you deportable and subject to removal proceedings (deportation proceedings) and possibly detention.

I was arrested by Immigration. What are my rights?
  • You do not have to sign any statements or documents.
  • You have the right to talk to a lawyer, but the government will not give you a free lawyer. They should give you a list of free or low-cost lawyers you can contact.
  • You do not have to give information about your immigration status. Anything you say will be used against you later on.
  • You have the right to contact your consulate.

The list of consulates and their phone numbers should be posted in the jail. If not, get the number from your deportation officer. Contact your consulate immediately. If you leave a message, give them:

  • your name,
  • a phone number,
  • where you were arrested, and
  • the name of your deportation officer. The consul may be able to help you find a lawyer or give you other services.
How does my family find out where I was detained?

If your family does not know where you are detained, they can use the ICE detainee locator to find you.

A family member can also contact the local office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Detention and Removal Branch in the area. They should have your full name and “A number” ready, which is an 8- or 9-digit number on your immigration paperwork.

The local office for all of New England is in Massachusetts:

Boston Field Office
1000 District Avenue
Burlington, MA, 01803
Phone: (781) 359-7500
Area of Responsibility: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
Email: [email protected]

For offices in other parts of the country see Immigration and Customs Enforcement Enforcement and Removal Operations Field Offices online.

Can I be released from immigration detention if I post bond?

Maybe. Some, but not all, immigrants are eligible to post bond. If you post bond, you are released from the detention facility while you wait for the deportation hearing. If you have committed certain very serious crimes, you may not be eligible for a bond hearing, due to the mandatory detention rules.

A bond is an amount of money paid to the government to show that you will attend your deportation hearing. 

If you want to post bond, ask for a bond hearing. Look for an experienced immigration lawyer to represent you in the bond hearing. You can always ask for a bond hearing, but you may not be eligible for bond if you: 

  • Have a previous deportation order,
  • Have certain criminal convictions,
  • Were arrested at the border or airport, or
  • The government suspects you have terrorist ties.

At the hearing, you can submit any documents that show you have:

  • a permanent address, 
  • stable employment, 
  • relatives with legal status in the United States, and
  • any evidence of strong ties to the community, such as letters from employers, relatives, or pastors. 

In the Boston Immigration Court, the government has the burden to prove that you are a danger to the community or a flight risk. You are not required to, but should bring documents that prove you are neither of these. 

If you have closed criminal cases, the ICE lawyer may not have current court documents showing that you were found “not guilty.” If you can get these types of records you may want to present them to the court. The immigration judge, not the ICE lawyer, will decide whether to give you a bond. 

To find out when your bond hearing is, check the EOIR website or call the Immigration Court (EOIR) hotline. The number is 1-800-898-7180.

  • When you call, the automatic hotline will ask you for your Alien Registration Number, or “A number.” This is a 9-digit number that should be on any documents you have from the government related to your immigration. An example is A 123 456 789. (If you have an older A# that is 8 digits put a “0” at the beginning.)
  • After you enter your A number, you can find out when your next court date is scheduled.
  • You can also check the online case system on the EOIR website. If your A# is not yet in the system, keep trying. It may appear anytime after you are detained once the paperwork is filed with the court.

If you are eligible for bond, ICE or an immigration judge will decide the amount. The person paying the bond must have some kind of immigration status and identification. If you are granted bond, they can pay the bond through the Cash Electronic Bonds webpage or at any ICE field office.

What will happen in Immigration Court?
Resource Boxes
More Resources
Legal Resources from Pair Project

Legal Resources from Pair Project

Self-Help Manual
Immigration_Self-Help Manual for People Detained by the Immigration Service

Self-Help Manual for People Detained by the Immigration Service (PAIR Project, 2015)

How to Defend Your Own Case
How to Defend Your Own Case

How to Defend Your Own Case by the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project


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